In some of the writing on assessing writing that I've been bogged under for the last year or so, people suggest "metacognitive exercises" whereby students write about what effect they were trying to have on the reader in sections of drafts of their work. Then, the advocates suggest, the writing instructor can help the writer understand how successful he/she has been (at least with that one reader). This kind of an idea seems to me an attempt to get students to own/make real what they are trying to accomplish. It also gives the instructor some kind of a rubric by which to play evaluator. The folks who suggest this are writing from the US composition context in which the instructors comment on drafts, but I find that we play a similar role in writing conferences in our writing centre. We ask what the students are trying to do, and then look to help them do that by clarifying ideas, teasing out further thoughts, clarifying organization etc. We are always having to be careful
about who "owns" those papers and those conference meetings, particularly because the students would often like to foist off responsibility onto us.
Philippa Spoel wrote:
> Ok, I think I understand and agree with the distinctions you and Rob are making between writing that seems to be more meaningful or more "owned" and the kinds of empty(?) writing that students often produce, through no fault of their own, because they don't really care about what they are writing so much as they care about the way that it will be assessed. But still I would say that the function of writing in order to be assessed by an authority is a very REAL rhetorical function and an extraordinarily important / meaningful (and of course problematic!) one in our culture. I think we can try to create writing tasks that try to engage students, try to provide them with more of a sense of ownership for what they are doing, more personal relevance / meaning, etc. but in the end, I am going to be assessing their work and I know it and they know it. Students do write in expectation of a response - the response of a teacher's assessment, the grade. And they in turn respond, for !
> better or worse, with further assignments.
> And I'm not so sure that this list provides a completely different writing experience. True, I do care about whether or not Russ, Rob, Roger (any other Rs out there?) understand what I'm saying and in that sense maybe my writing is more "real" than the typical classroom assignment. Also, my position in this rhetorical hierarchy is very different from that of students in the generic classroom hierarchy. However, despite this important structural difference, even in this CASLL context, I too am very concerned about how my writing will be assessed by my colleagues - not as concerned as I was when I was a grad student (I don't think I ever posted anything then!) but nonetheless aware of my audience as a group that will be "assessing" my words. I'm not writing for grades but I am conscious of having my words "evaluated" - are they "effective" from my audience's perspective? Do you see my writing as thoughtful and relevant, or as simplistic and irrelevant? (please don't answer!
> that last question!)
> So a) I think the function of evaluation (broadly-speaking) for writing is present in many contexts and b) this is a real function and c) it can be a meaningful form of response that in turns elicits new writing. Maybe it's this last point that concerns me most - how can I establish in my courses modes and criteria of evaluation that will guide students to produce what I (and, I hope, they too) consider to be meaningful writing - is this writing that seems to demonstrate some sense of "ownership", some kind of "authenticity", some "real" responsiveness to other people's ideas, some personal engagement? Am I the one who judges whether or not my students' writing demonstrates these qualities? Are they the ones who judge?
> Hmmm, I think I may have veered away from the main issue. Sorry.
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Dr. Robert Irish, Director
Language Across the Curriculum
Applied Science and Engineering
University of Toronto SF B670
To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
[log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
its newsletter, and the annual conference, go to